BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON——
LISTEN to the song Wi Selebraytin by vocalist Chawlie and pay keen attention to the musical accompaniment.
It is all coming from his mouth!
CHAWLIE… uses vocals as instruments to create a wide range of musical sounds
To mark Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, Chawlie has released Wi Selebraytin in his polyphonic trademark style.
He said he wanted to celebrate the milestone with a song “out of the ordinary”.
“It’s a completely different type of reggae rhythm, as good as any Studio One hit and able to last for the next 50 years, from generation to generation,” 65-year-old Chawlie told the Jamaica Observer.
He says the feedback has been positive.
“Many persons can’t believe that I am using my mouth to play that kind of a music. They wonder how I do it,” he said, laughing.
Chawlie says it took him 39 years to perfect this form of vocal improvisation.
Born Charley Cross in Clarendon, he practised making sounds with his mouth as music played. But it was not until the 1960s while living in England that he was encouraged to take it seriously by singer Millie Small.
“After that I worked hard at it for years,” he said.
“It took me years to develop my act, being able to use vocals as instruments to create a wide range of musical sounds as bright and as crisp as any guitar, horns, keyboards or percussion and a bass voice as deep as any bass,” he added.
A past student of the Maurice Burman School of Pop Singing in London, Chawlie said he was inspired by a friend to write and record Wi Selebraytin.
The Hall sisters, Pam and Audrey, are featured as background vocals. Chawlie, who lives in New York, plans to promote Wi Selebraytin in Jamaica.
American Bobby McFerrin scored a massive global hit with a similar style, Don’t Worry Be Happy, in 1988. At the 1989 Grammy Awards, the song earned the Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and made McFerrin the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.